Fighting COVID-19, the tech-savvy way

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a destruction of lives and livelihood. While the whole world is reeling from the effects of the crisis, the pandemic is sparking a flurry of low-cost but hi-tech innovations. From testing kits to portable ventilators, sanitizer-drones to portable fever detection systems, institutes and startups are coming forward to join the fight against the pandemic.

As the world is adapting to the new normal, taking every precaution to maintain hygiene is of utmost importance. This brings to question all the touchpoints that we navigate on a daily basis. Below are some of the newest inventions.

  1.  Hygiene-friendly door openers- Epidemiologists suggest that coronavirus can live on surfaces like stainless steel for upto 3 days. In situations such as hospitals and offices, door-knobs or door openers are one of the most frequently touched objects and can be a matter of life and death. Hygiene-friendly solutions for this can be a game changer and a number of alternatives for the same are in pipeline.

Some of the door-opener alternatives, such as “Hygienehook” created by designer Steve Brooks, have already reached the market. Hygienehook is a small, pocket-friendly door opening device made from easy to clean, non porous material and is available in four different varieties. Another such alternative is Wyn Griffiths’ hands-free door opener. The hands-free door opener clips onto door handles and can be operated using the forearm.  

  1. Masks- At this time masks have become imperative to ensure the safety of ourselves and people around us. While there is a lot of information out there on the ‘right’ kind of mask, most masks keep us safe from most viruses. The Snood mask from Virustatic Shield comes with an antiviral coating and can kill upto 95% of any viruses- including COVID-19.
  2. Emergency Ventilator- The Coronavirus cases severe respiratory problems in its patients. So, Dr Rhys Thomas of Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen in Wales went straight to the heart of the global crisis. He devised a “simple and robust” basic ventilator designed to help patients breathe and kills COVID-19.

“Although it won’t replace an ICU ventilator, the majority of patients won’t need intensive care if they are treated with this ventilator first,” he said. “The machine will [also] clean the room of viral particles and only supply purified air to the patient. The patient can self-care, releasing specialist nurses for other duties.”

In this age of 3D printing and high-tech software, small-scale producers are leading the way in coming up with innovative products to combat the global crisis. Companies and governments joining hands to foster technological innovation. California 3D Modelling company, CAD Crowd, has launched a month-long prototypes competition. Startup India, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body regularising Indian startups, launched ‘United Against Covid-19 Innovation Challenge’ in March, calling all medtech startups to submit ideas. The selected enterprises will have priority access to government procurement programmes.

Entrants for these competitions range from the practical – printable protective face shields and temporary acrylic doors for supermarket fruit displays – to the ingenious, including disposable doorknob sleeves and an elbow-operated extension for lift buttons.

It is admirable how many people have stepped in with their skills to manufacture PPEs, masks, diagnostic kits, ventilators etc. The surge in innovations at this time are drawing comparisons with another period of duress- World War II. While it remains to be seen if anything we come up with to fight COVID-19 match the wartime inventions, reports of human ingenuity and acumen in the face of adversity acts as the proverbial silver lining.

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